Economic News Blog
Posted by: Steven Kline, Jr. 17. March 2015

Machine Tool Orders Off to Slow Start in 2015

In January, machine tool sales were 1,583 units and $332,846,000. This was a significant decline from the strong orders in December. But, taken together, the two months show machine tool orders are continuing at the same rate as most of 2014. I think the passing of accelerated depreciation in the last two weeks of the year somehow affected December and January orders even though the two weeks that accelerated depreciation was available shouldn't have been able to affect orders that much.

Unit orders in January were down 9.9% from one year ago. In three of the last four months, the month-over-month rate of change has contracted. The annual rate of change continued to be slightly positive at 3.0%. My unit forecast was too high by a whopping 32.7%. I think this was because some January orders were pulled into December. My forecast would have been pretty close based on the average of the last two months.

Real dollar sales in January were down 6.1% from one year ago. They have contracted in two of the last three months. So, dollar sales have been performing somewhat better than unit sales in recent months. The annual rate of change was still growing at 1.7%, but it has decelerated the last three months. My dollar forecast was too high by 12.7%.

In January the average price of a machine was $210,000. This was the highest average price for a machine since March 2013. Compared with one year ago, the average price has increased four of the last five months. This is usually a sign of stronger unit sales in the upcoming months. 

The West region saw a faster contraction in unit orders than the country as a whole. And, real dollar sales tanked in the West in January - down 34.4% from one year ago. The average price was just $184,000, which was much lower than the national average.

The South Central region continued to be in free fall. Unit orders were down 42.3% compared with last January. Real dollar orders were down a similar amount.

The North Central - West saw unit sales increase in January by 3.3% compared with one year ago. Real dollar sales jumped almost 17%. The average increased quite a bit was still just $183,000.

Unit sales in the North Central - East were basically flat but real dollar sales increased more than 10% compared with one year ago. The average price has increased month-over-month seven of the last eight months. It's been above $206,000 for four straight months.

In the Southeast, unit sales fell 3.4% but they are growing year over year at an accelerating rate. However, real dollar sales crashed by 32% in January. The average price of a machine fell to $142,000.

In the Northeast, unit sales fell 11.4% in January. They have contracted in three of the last four months. However, real dollar sales increased 25.7% in January. The average price was a whopping $294,000. That's the highest monthly average price for the region since USMTO began in 1996.

You can find more on machine tool sales and the leading indicators on our metalworking and monetary pages.

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